Veterans and dogs are helping each other heal as part of a study at the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine, the Kansas City Star reports.
Researchers are pairing combat veterans with dogs in animal rescue
shelters in the Veterans & Shelter Dogs program, in which veterans spend time with the dogs each week training them. The goal is twofold: to get veterans a calming interaction with animals and to train the dogs to make them more adoptable, the news source reports.
Soliders, many of whom experience some level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from war, feel relaxed and rewarded after handling the dogs, according to Rebecca Johnson, lead researcher of the study. The dogs are more likely to be adopted if they respond to commands and do tricks.
"The idea here is healing through helping," Johnson told the news source.
While the program is already having benefits for both veterans and dogs, another goal of the program is to identify shelter dogs that could be trained to be service dogs to support veterans with PTSD, Johnson added. Other programs, such as Patriot Paws, have already been established to match dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD, the ASPCA reports.